Welcome to Tusheti! It’s a magical land of brave horses, defensive towers made of stone and taciturn Georgian highlanders. We will reach passes and valleys during the day and eat khinkali, drink chacha and listen to wild nature during evenings in shepherds’ cottages.
Days overall12 daysDays in saddle8
Standardhighlanders' hospitality (under roofs and in bed linen)Luggage12 kgFoodlocal cuisine, vegetarian meals available
Skillswalk, trot, canter
The Greater Caucasus expedition is always an adventure. The group rides through pathless tracts and sleeps at spots not mentioned on European maps. Hot water, electricity and mobile coverage aren’t that obvious and always available. In exchange for that, one can admire sailing eagles, drink water from streams and rest in the shade of mysterious stone towers.
Tusheti is populated mainly by shepherds who spend July to October season there. During the rest of the year, the land is cut off from the rest of the world by valleys covered in deep snow. Life pace is different here. It’s slow and steady, which is something one should be prepared for. The locals are cordial and hospitable.
We’re guided by shepherds, almost literally raised in saddles. They ride mainly brave Kabardin horses, a relatively small breed of high endurance, perfect balance, easy temper, brave and intelligent. Great horses for riding in rough conditions.
Everyday rides take about five hours. Due to the specificity of the trail, there are fewer gallops and more walking in front of the horse, especially while going up or down steep slopes. The part of the trail on foot takes less than 20% of the entire distance.
- Accommodation in the Tbilisi hotel and guesthouses in Tusheti
- Breakfasts in Tbilisi
- Full alimentation in Tusheti (breakfasts, takeaway lunch during rests, supper)
- Transfer to and from the Tbilisi airport (on the first and last day of the trek)
- Transport from Tbilisi to Omalo and back
- Local guides in Tusheti
- A horse with full equipment
- Tourist insurance covering high-risk sports
- Flight tickets to and from Georgia
- In Tbilisi: meals other than breakfasts (a meal at a restaurant is 5-10 Euro)
- Minor expenses (souvenirs, additional snacks, admission tickets, etc.)
All riders are picked up from the airport and taken directly to the hotel. Due to different arrival hours, no group activities are planned on that day. Riders are free to roam Tbilisi in their spare time.
Road to Omalo
Right after breakfast a minibus will arrive at the hotel and take the group north-east, to Kvemo
Alvani. The travel takes approximately 2 hours. Next, we’ll switch to cross-country/off-road vehicles and drive to Upper Omalo. It’s just 70 km, but it’s a 4-5 hour drive. The path runs through the Caucasus and Abano Valley (2836 m). It’s one of the most dangerous, yet most beautiful, roads in the world. We’ll reach our destination in the late afternoon.
In the morning, we will meet our horses, strap luggage to saddles and start our ride. First, we head to Shenako, a small village with a picturesque, old church. The path is wide and not too steep; a good place to test our horses. We will reach the ruins of old Diklo in the afternoon. The other side of the valley is already Dagestan. In between – a no man’s land.
That day, the group will have to make it through a mountain ridge. The path is scenic but hard. At times, riders will need to get off their horses and lead them through the most narrow or steep parts of the trail. Our destination is Dartlo, one of the most beautiful villages in Tusheti.
Starting in Dartlo, we’ll be riding west. The wide and firm path leads down the riverbank, which gives a chance to gallop a bit. Along the way, stone towers appear every once in a while. In the past days, those towers were used to pass fire and smoke signals. In the afternoon, we reach Girevi.
The group rides south towards a mountain pass. It’s the highest point during the trek, around 3000 meters above sea level. The air is noticeably thin, but the view rewards the effort. On the other side, we ride away from trails marked on maps and follow wild paths of Tusheti. We’ll stay for the night in one of the small, forgotten villages. Georgians are the only people who can still remember the names of those villages.
The eagle path
We hack through wild places. Our horses will be eager to use paths beaten by shepherds. Tourists are quite unlikely here. Instead, if the weather allows for it, we’ll be able to see eagles. The trail runs above their nests. In the afternoon, we reach Vestomta.
We leave our luggage in the mountain hut. Our path leads along the edge of the precipice. It’s winding, bumpy and spectacular. The group arrives at a wide, rapid stream. Riders may try themselves in fishing trout. It’s worth going up the stream – a waterfall is hidden behind offsets. In the evening, the group heads back to Vestomta.
We leave Vestomta and ride back to inhabited parts of Tusheti. The views are beautiful, we’ll also have a spot to gallop. The group stays for the night near Shtrolta.
The group rides south-east. Our destination is one of the most beautiful places in Georgia – Lake Oreti. We’ll have lunch at the lake shore and ride one last time – to Omalo.
Back to Tbilisi
After breakfast, we go back to Tbilisi by cars. Riders can rest a bit and hit the city centre for a walk before heading to a farewell dinner.
Farewell to Georgia
The group leaves Georgia. All riders are taken to the airport.
In Tbilisi, the group stays at a hotel comparable to European standards. In Tusheti, however, we stay in guesthouses and shepherds’ houses. These places are modest but neat. We usually have access to water, but it’s not always warm. Electricity is usually available, although there might be just a single socket for the entire house. Sleeping bags and mats are not required – we sleep in beds, under roofs, and in clean bedding.
In Tbilisi, breakfasts are served in the hotel (on the second and the last day). Other meals should be purchased individually. During the proper trek, all food is provided. We have breakfasts and dinners at places where we stay for nights. Lunches ride with us and are had during breaks.
Meals in Tusheti are traditional dishes, typical shepherd food: mainly vegetables, mutton and local cheese of various sorts. Drinks – apart from crystal clear water – are herbal infusions, wine, and chacha. In Tbilisi, regular restaurants are common, serving all kinds of dishes.
We use typical Caucasian saddles. They are quite different from the English and western saddles. Steel saddle bows are set on wooden benches. This construction is covered with a moderately hard pillow made of leather. The pillow is kept in its place by a strap, usually made of strings, which serves as a girth at the same time. Tail docks are common.
Stirrup leathers in Georgia are quite short – Georgians practice a distinctive seat: legs in the front, knees high. Stirrups are quite wide, trekking shoes fit inside well. Bridles are made in a usual way, but the reins are often made of sackcloth tape or rope. We use bits.
Caucasian riding equipment often raises doubts, but it’s quite comfortable actually. Pommels and cantles are quite high to stabilize riders in mountainous terrain and the pillow absorbs bumps. This non-standard construction is quite practical when it comes to attaching larger quantities of luggage.
What you should take with you
The trek in Tusheti leads through mountains not accessible by car. This is why we don’t have a transport vehicle and all luggage has to be transported on horses. The overall weight of the luggage can’t be more than 12 kg per person. All items should be packed in waterproof backpacks or bags that can be strapped to the saddle.
- cash, preferably USD or EUR
- electronic devices, e.g. camera
- a handy backpack or bag (for documents, phone, etc.)
- a canteen or other water containers (it might be an empty plastic bottle)
- flashlight; head flashlights are quite handy
- head cover against the sun
- trekking shoes, waterproof ones advised
- flip-flops for showering
- optional: aqua shoes (the path to the waterfall is through stream den full of stones)